III. MECHANISMS FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS INTO AGRICULTURAL POLICY
D. Environmental policy
5. Environmental impact assessment
With the increasing emphasis on an integrated and preventive approach, the institutional framework will be strengthened to ensure the provision of adequate capacity for undertaking planning, regulatory and enforcement functions, training and education, and research and development. Environmental considerations will be further integrated into decision-making at the federal, State and local authority levels. The legislative mechanism will be streamlined at various levels as an integral part of overall project planning in order to reduce the adverse environmental impact of proposed projects.
In Malaysia, EIA is required under section 34A of the Environmental Quality Act, 1974 (Amendment 1985). In exercising the powers conferred by section 34A of the Act, the Minister of Environment, after consultation with the Environmental Quality Council, makes an order cited as the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Order, 1987, which came into force on 1 April 1988.
To complete an EIA in an efficient manner, the assessor should take the following sequential steps:
(a) Describe the proposed subject as well as the options;
(b) Describe the existing environment;
(c) Select the impact indicators to be used;
(d) Predict the nature and extent of the environmental effects;
(e) Identify the relevant human concerns;
(f) Assess the significance of the impacts;
(g) Incorporate appropriate mitigating and abatement measures into the project plan;
(h) Identify the environmental costs and benefits of the project to the community;
(i) Report on the assessment.
The above sequence may be repeated for a number of project options and for a selected project concept, with mitigating or abatement measures incorporated. Steps (d) and (g) above may be quantitative, semi-quantitative or qualitative, with the latter only being used where quantitative data are not available. The standard Malaysian EIA procedure comprises the three major steps, (a) to (c), detailed below (see figure: Outline of EIA procedure in Malaysia).
A preliminary assessment should normally be initiated during the early stages of project planning. Standard procedural steps are provided and the assessment can be conducted in-house or by a consultant. Some form of public participation is mandatory. Environmental data collection may be necessary, and close liaison between the assessor and relevant environmentally-related agencies is encouraged. The results of the preliminary assessment are reported formally for examination and approval by the project approving authority as well as
Outline of the environmental impact assessment procedure in Malaysia
the director-general of environmental quality. Preliminary assessment requires resources that are a small proportion of the man-hours, money, skills and equipment committed to a pre-feasibility study; the assessment should be completed within the timeframe of that study.
A detailed assessment is undertaken of any project that is projected by the preliminary assessment as having a significant residual environmental impact. The detailed assessment should continue during project planning until the project plan is finalized. Standard procedural steps are provided, and specific terms of reference based on the results of preliminary assessment are issued for each project. The method of the assessment, which can be conducted in-house or by a consultant, is selected according to the nature of the project. In addition, some form of public participation is required. Environmental data collection is almost certainly necessary. The results of the detailed assessment are reported formally.
(c)Environmental impact assessment review process
A review of EIA reports is carried out internally by the Department of Environment for preliminary assessment reports and by an ad hoc Review Panel for detailed assessment reports. Recommendations arising out of the review are transmitted to the relevant project approving authorities for consideration in making a decision on the project. The normal period allocated for a review of a preliminary assessment report is two months while that for a detailed assessment report varies, depending on the type of project under review. The Department of Environment maintains a list of experts who may be called upon to sit as members of any Review Panel established. The selection of the experts depends on the areas of environmental impacts to be reviewed.
(d)Activities subject to environmental impact assessment
Nineteen categories of activities are subject to EIA, including those related to agriculture, airports, drainage and irrigation, land reclamation, fisheries, forestry, housing, industry, infrastructure, ports, mining, petroleum, power generation, quarries, railways, transportation, resort and recreational development, waste treatment and disposal, and water supply.
For agriculture, the activities that are subject to EIA include :
(e)Project pre-siting evaluation
Project pre-siting evaluation ensures that adequate attention is given to environmental considerations in the case of those projects not subject to EIA requirements. The siting of proposed development projects are assessed vis-à-vis the use of the surrounding land. Plans are examined to ensure that environmentally sensitive areas (e.g., residential areas, schools, water catchment areas, forest reserves and national parks) are adequately buffered to avoid adverse environmental impacts resulting from the development activities.
Project proponents are required to take appropriate measures to control and abate pollution during the planning stage of the project. The State offices of the Department play a major role by conducting site investigations, and then forwarding their views and recommendations to the relevant planning authorities.
In 1995, a total of 6,565 applications for pre-siting project evaluation were received by the Department of Environment. That was an increase of 12 per cent compared with the number of applications received in 1994.